Cygnal Poll: Nearly 30% of Voters Want to Halt All Immigration

The Rise of Populism in the U.S. Could Offer Trump a Path to Reelection in 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A nationwide opinion poll published today by Cygnal, a polling and market research firm, finds that nearly 30% of U.S. voters believe that all legal and illegal immigration to the United States should be halted. The survey covered a range of topics, including the 2020 presidential election, immigration, the economy, and various public policy issues, and examined underlying correlations between those issues and U.S. voters that hold populist views.

The survey, with a sample size of over 1,000 people from every region in the U.S., was commissioned by Cygnal and presented publicly last week at the 24th annual meeting of the European Association of Political Consultants (EAPC) in Athens, Greece. The annual event, focused on the rapidly changing electorate, brings together politicians, academics, campaign managers and marketing professionals from more than 20 countries.

The poll showed that, while 56% of respondents believe that Trump doesn’t deserve a second term in office, only 42% of all voters surveyed said they intended to vote for the Democratic nominee next November. That disparity could be a path to reelection for President Trump, according to Cygnal’s founder and CEO, Brent Buchanan.

“With an enormous Democratic field vying for the nomination, and a clear divide in the party between hyper-liberal leftists and more moderate liberals, it isn’t a foregone conclusion that the entire party will rally around the nominee in the general election — and the Democratic Party’s internecine fighting spelled disaster for Hillary Clinton in 2016,” Buchanan said.

The research also delved into the attitudes and beliefs powering the rise of populism in the U.S. While much of the public discussion related to populism in America focuses on the political right, ideological populists are found in significant numbers across the political spectrum, according to Chris Kratzer, VP of Research and Analysis at Cygnal. The Cygnal poll found that approximately 39% of all respondents held populist views.

“The anti-establishment sentiments helping to fuel the populist wave can be found on the left, center, and right of the ideological spectrum. This is incredibly evident when looking at the survey findings,” Kratzer said. “The unifying factor is that nearly all populists believe that ordinary citizens have been betrayed by the elites of this country, regardless of their party affiliation.”

Additional insights from the survey:

  • 42% think the US is headed in the right direction while 54% said wrong track. Nearly 30% of respondents said definitely wrong track.
  • The partisan split over the direction of the country is extremely clear. 75% of self-identified Republicans said right direction while 84% of Democrats said wrong track.
  • Over 50% of male respondents said right direction, as opposed to just 34% of females.
  • Nearly 80% of Republicans approve of the job Donald Trump is doing as president.
  • 70% of right-populists think Donald Trump deserves another term. That number is 10 points lower among the right-mainstream” grouping. 91% of left-populists believe it’s time for someone new.
  • Trump’s favorability is net -13 overall, but is +51 among right-populists. For contrast, it’s +36 among right-leaning respondents who hold more mainstream ideologies. For context, Ronald Reagan was at +36 net favorability in 1983.
  • Biden (+7), Sanders (+1), and the Democratic Party (+3) all have positive net favorabilities overall.
  • Sanders has +52 net favorability with left-leaning populists.

“President Donald Trump has a good shot at re-election because 47% of voters believe the economy is better now than a year ago. As long as the economy continues to appear strong, so will the President’s electoral chances,” concluded Buchanan.

This survey was conducted on May 22 – 23, 2019, with 1019 likely general election voters giving the poll a margin of error of ±3.07%. Interviews were conducted using an online sample collection platform accessed via secure link. This survey was weighted to a likely 2020 general election universe. This methodology reflects the way voters now communicate, with more people using online communication than answering their phone. This poll was commissioned, paid for, and conducted by Cygnal

The toplines, Smart Tables, and crosstabs are available on Cygnal’s website. A detailed presentation of the results is also available for download.


Cygnal is a national public opinion and market research firm that specializes in data-driven approaches to decision making. Cygnal was recently ranked the #1 most accurate polling and research firm in the country for 2018 by The New York Times. Its team members have worked on more than 900 corporate, public affairs, and political campaigns in 44 states.